Momoko Sakura, a manga artist later turned essayist best known for her manga and anime “Chibimaruko-chan,” passed away from breast cancer on Aug. 15, 2018. She was 53. Her funeral was held today, and her death was made public for the first time.
Chibimaruko-chan is a charming autobiographical family comedy that draws its laughs from the real-life occurrences drawn from Sakura’s childhood. Wildly successful, the manga has sold 31 million copies within Japan, making it the 6th best selling shoujo manga of all time.
The titular Maruko is the nickname of Sakura’s childhood self, and she is unapologetically lazy, not very smart, somewhat greedy, yet also generous in spirit, valuing her friendships, and undeniably charming. Her friendships with her classmates, her conflicts with her older sister and mother, and her close relationship with her doting grandfather are all central to the show.
The show’s famous ED (and later OP) “Odoru Ponpokorin” is intimately associated with show—the lyrics were written by Sakura herself, and the single of the song went on to sell 1.9 million copies, making it far and away the most popular anime song ever written.
The characters from her anime are as ubiquitous and as well or better known than Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, or Garfield in America. Her image is used to sell anything from tea, to lottery tickets, educational materials.
Sakura never wrote another manga series, but she went on to become a best selling essayist, with 3 different essay collections that sold a million or more copies.